Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What's In a Name?

My editing business has some interesting prospective clients, two writers with Arabic names reviewing books by Palestinian authors about the situation in Palestine (or the Palestinian territories, or whatever you want to call the area). So far they have both treated me as I would like to be treated, so to the degree that it is possible to make one’s customers one’s friends, I have two new friends.

Now the Great Commission tells me that these are two potential disciples, that I am to preach the Gospel to them. How simple it would be to tell them, after an exchange in which they praise my work (and earning that praise is, of course, another matter), that I am an evangelical Christian. How wonderful it would be if they would take that to mean that I make it my goal to love God more than anything and with all I am and have, that the first indicator of that love is my love for all my neighbors as proven by my efforts to do for them what I would have others do for me, that I acknowledge my failures in that regard, and that I know of only one way to escape God’s righteous wrath for my sins, the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross!

Instead, I would expect them to see “evangelical Christian” and think that I consider Muslims (especially Palestinians) Untermensch and Israelis entitled to impunity.

If God indeed rules the State of Israel, then we should petition Tel Aviv to make us citizens. (After all, God certainly doesn’t rule the US, at least not so’s you’d notice it.) But if he doesn’t–and he doesn’t—then we must conclude that the State of Israel is in rebellion against God the same as any other political entity, including (or perhaps especially) the US, and judge its deeds by the same objective standard we use to judge those of any other individual or group.

More importantly, we need to consider what’s at stake in the words “God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom 2:24). If the choice is either to “stand by our ally Israel” or to preach the gospel to the Palestinians, which way do we go? Can we assume that we will never be confronted with that choice?

“Joel of Jerusalem” used to write in the magazine Israel My Glory of the trouble the Israeli government gave him for preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem. That is enough evidence for me that we are more likely to preserve God’s good name by saying, “Let me die with the Philistines” than by confusing God’s glory with the State of Israel.


  1. I'm sure that Paul would be shocked and angered that Rom 9-11 has been used to justify reverence for and support of a modern state of Israel on eschatological or theological grounds. NT Wright calls this "a total parody" of Paul's vision for Jews and Gentiles in a renewed, spiritual (true!) Israel.

    1. Always nice to be agreed with . . . . Thanks!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Sean!